At our weekly Theology Breakfast, we have been looking at the Doctrine of God the last couple of weeks. Yesterday, we were thinking about both the attributes of God and the providence of God. The latter of those led to a helpful discussion on the nature of God’s sovereignty with some excellent questions coming up from it.
I would have gladly sat there much longer dealing with the questions, but I was preaching elsewhere in the morning so had to dash off to get to where I was preaching. Later in the afternoon, I encouraged someone – who was asking great questions – to grab a copy of The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink to help think through those questions further. I was pleased to hear they had already (before I suggested it) taken it upon themselves to buy a copy from our book stall. Even in hard places and supposedly non-reading cultures, this is why it pays to give away books, expect people to read and have a book stall available!
Anyway, as I suggested getting a copy of The Sovereignty of God, I was minded to grab my battered old copy off the shelf and start reading it. Though the language is a bit archaic, it’s still readable. It is mercifully short too. But the truths it packs into the book are brilliant and punchy. So, rather than write anything myself, I just thought I would give you an extended quote from Pink on why the absolute sovereignty of God matters (and, if you want my particular thoughts on that, you can get them here instead).
How different is the God of the Bible from the God of modern Christendom! The conception of Deity which prevails most widely today, even among those who profess to give heed to the Scriptures, is a miserable caricature, a pathetic travesty of the Truth. The God of the twentieth century is a helpless, effeminate being who commands the respect of no really thoughtful man. The God of the popular mind is the creation of a maudlin sentimentality. The God of many a present-day pulpit is an object of pity rather than of awe-inspiring reverence. To say that God the Father has purposed the salvation of all mankind, that God the Son died with the express intention of saving the whole human race, and that God the Holy Spirit is now seeking to win the world to Christ; when, as a matter of common observation, it is apparent that the great majority of our fellow-men are dying in sin, and passing into a hopeless eternity: is to say that God the Father is disappointed, that God the Son is dissatisfied, and that God the Holy Spirit is defeated. We have stated the issue baldly, but there is no escaping the conclusion. To argue that God is “trying His best” to save all mankind, but that the majority of men will not let Him save them, is to imply that the will of the Creator is impotent, and that the will of the creature is omnipotent. To throw the blame, as many do, upon the Devil, does not remove the difficulty, for if Satan is defeating the purpose of God, then Satan is Almighty and God is no longer the Supreme Being.
To declare that the Creator’s original plan has been frustrated by sin, is to dethrone God. To suggest that God was taken by surprise in Eden and that He is now attempting to remedy an unforeseen calamity, is to degrade the Most High to the level of a finite, erring mortal. To argue that man is the sole determiner of his own destiny, and that therefore he has the power to checkmate his Maker, is to strip God of the attribute of Omnipotence. To say that the creature has burst the bounds assigned by his Creator, and that God is now practically a helpless spectator of the sin and suffering entailed by Adam’s fall, is to repudiate the express declaration of Holy Writ, namely, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain” (Ps. 76: 10). In a word, to deny the sovereignty of God is to enter upon a path which, if followed to its logical terminus, leads to blank atheism.
The sovereignty of the God of Scripture is absolute, irresistible, infinite. When we say that God is sovereign, we affirm His right to govern the universe, which He has made for His own glory, just as He pleases. We affirm that His right is the right of the Potter over the clay, viz: that He may mould that clay into whatsoever form He chooses, fashioning out of the same lump one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour. We affirm that He is under no rule or law outside His own will and nature, that God is a law unto Himself, and that He is under no obligation to give an account of His matters to any.
Sovereignty characterizes the whole Being of God. He is sovereign in all His attributes. He is sovereign in the exercise of His power. His power is exercised as He wills, when He wills, where He wills. This fact is evidenced on every page of Scripture. For a long season that power appears to be dormant, and then it goes forth with irresistible might. Pharaoh dared to hinder Israel from going forth to worship Jehovah in the wilderness. What happened? God exercised His power, His people were delivered and their cruel task masters slain. But a little later, the Amalekites dared to attack these same Israelites in the wilderness, and what happened? Did God put forth His power on this occasion and display His hand as He did at the Red Sea? Were these enemies of His people promptly overthrown and destroyed? No, on the contrary, the Lord swore that He would “have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex. 17:16). Again, when Israel entered the land of Canaan, God’s power was signally displayed. The city of Jericho barred their progress. What happened? Israel did not draw a bow nor strike a blow: the Lord stretched forth His hand and the walls fell down flat. But the miracle was never repeated! No other city fell after this manner. Every other city had to be captured by the sword!
Many other instances might be adduced illustrating the sovereign exercise of God’s power. God put forth His power and David was delivered from Goliath the giant; the mouth of the lions were closed and Daniel escaped unhurt; the three Hebrew children were cast into the burning fiery furnace and came forth unharmed and unscorched. But God’s power did not always interpose for the deliverance of His people, for we read: “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskin being destitute, afflicted, tormented” (Heb. 11:36, 37). But why? Why were not these men of faith delivered like the others? Or, why were not the others suffered to be killed as were these? Why should God’s power interpose and rescue some and not others? Why did He allow Stephen to be stoned to death, and then deliver Peter from prison?
God is sovereign in the delegation of His power to others. Why did God endow Methuselah with a vitality which abled him to outlive all his contemporaries? Why did God impart to Samson a physical strength which no other human has ever possessed? Again, it is written, “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth” (Deut. 8:18), but God does not bestow this power on all alike. Why not? Why has He given such power to men like Carnegie and Rockefeller? The answer to all of these questions is, Because God is Sovereign, and being Sovereign He does as He pleases.A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty Of God, Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1961, pp.21-23